The Mask You Live In: Why This Film Matters for our Boys

In 2012, the brilliant Jennifer Siebel Newsom shed light on misogyny and media with her eye-opening documentary Miss Representation. This fantastic film showed us clearly how women and girls are being misrepresented in the media, and underscored that it’s time to teach our daughters AND sons a new viewpoint on real femininity. It also set the wheels in motion for Newsom’s next project – one that statistics show is badly needed. Her current film-in-progress is a documentary in the same vein as Miss Representation. The Mask You Live In is an exploration of masculinity in America which asks us as a society: How are we failing our boys?

Recently popular girls’ and women’s self-esteem initiatives have gotten a lot of media attention, as well they should. These programs are vital, but Newsom’s new film makes a case for the need for an excellent male counterpart. While it is true that workforce gender inequality is still a huge problem in this country, there is another American truth that can longer be ignored: boys in our country are being asked to live up to a standard of masculinity that is terribly unhealthy.

According to The Mask You Live In’s website, boys are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, flunk out of or drop out of school, commit violent crime, binge drink, or die by their own hand than girls. The film asserts that this is because “Our society’s failure to recognize and care for the social and emotional well-being of our boys contributes to a nation of young men who navigate adversity and conflict with an incomplete emotional skill set. Whether boys and later men have chosen to resist or conform to this masculine norm, there is loneliness, anxiety, and pain.” In other words, we’re raising our sons on a skewed and damaging definition of masculinity.

I’m a big fan of Jennifer’s, and I think she’s onto something. This film might well be as important for the future of our boys as Miss Representation is for our girls. The Mask You Live In will premiere later this year, and I hope you’ll make every effort to see it and share it to spread the word.

Kudos to Jennifer Seibel Newsom and her team for making films on topics that will truly change our world. After all, if we want to change our society, we need to start with how and what we’re teaching our children.

To stay up to date with the Mask You Live In, you might want to follow their Facebook page, and you’ll definitely want to check out this remarkable film’s thought-provoking trailer below.

  • Thanks for sharing this … it is SO important. I’m not sure where I read it, but I read it is common for parents to Google, “Is my daughter pretty?” “Is my son smart?” There are countless TV shows and movies where men, fathers, boys are presented as bumbling, incompetent, goofy fools. Women are outperforming men in academia and in many instances, in life. It doesn’t have to be this way!

    I’m glad for the many men and (mostly) women in my life that taught me the opposite: that I was capable of adding something great to this world, capable of noble deeds and great kindness. I was also taught to give women and children the highest regard, which is probably why I’ve recently discovered (thanks to your blog) that I am also a feminist, which feminism, in it’s pure form is not demeaning to men, but ennobling to all of us!

    • brendachapman

      It’s always a pleasure to hear from you, Scott. As my mother would have said,”Bless your heart!” 🙂

  • sianychick

    Oh my gosh this is so so important. That trailer gave me goosebumps!

    It is something I think about a lot with two boys. I’m lucky I think because my husband is a great role model for them. He is a big strong rugby playing teacher who is also kind and sensitive. He always tells our boys that he has never been in a fight because there is always a better way to solve conflict. You do not have to be aggressive to be a strong man. Last week he was unembarrassed to wear my girly purple backpack. My oldest was like ‘daddy that’s a girl bag!’ He smiled and said I like it! I know he will never tell them to stop crying or man up. He will let them be who they are.

    As Scott already said it really doesn’t have to be this way!

    • brendachapman

      Wow! A great mom and a great dad! Your boys are so fortunate and are going to be great men… great people! 🙂

      • sianychick

        😀 Aw you are too kind, thank you x

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